Panama: fighting for my life

The story of Yonta’s daily life in a Panamanian prison for women

Yonta J. is from the United States and in 2015 she was arrested at the Panama City airport. At the time, she had no clue she would end up spending three years incarcerated in a women’s rehabilitation center (Centro Femenino de Rehabilitación, CEFERE). She describes her detention as a fight for survival, facing discrimination and having difficulties with language, robberies, skin problems and harsh living conditions.

After having endured many hardships, she seeks to shed light on detention conditions for women through her own experiences.

Nobody knew that I was locked up for at least three months.

I would have felt safer in a single cell rather than having to look over my shoulder every minute.

One morning, I was woken up by a rat that had fallen on my face.

If the water supply in town was cut off or contaminated, the prison would be the last place to receive attention.

I grew a lot, and I saw a lot. All these things made me, and broke me.